Monthly Archives: July 2021

Disloyal

Last summer, when I began to speak out about things I disagreed with in a Christian community that I am part of, I didn’t understand the pushback I got. To me, the issues were worthy of discussion and many more should have been speaking out.

I did not realize at the time that mere discussion, never mind questioning leadership decisions in some organizations was simply not allowed. I naively assumed that in a Christian community we can talk through these things.

But what I really, really did not understand was the virulence with which others responded to me. Those who sent me friend requests on Facebook only so they could send me messages berating me, or those people I already knew in real life who asked me written questions, then took screen shots and used my honest answers against me. Again, I was naive. I could not imagine that anyone would do that to me. Never imagined someone would start a conversation with me solely to “entrap” me.

Naive, naive, naive. That part’s on me I guess.

I have pondered this for months though. Why was the backlash so fierce? Why the virulence?

Friday, thanks to a tweet from an online friend, I figured it out. I have followed Amy Fritz on Twitter for quite awhile and I really enjoy her podcast, Untangled Faith. Last Friday when I happened to randomly read a thread of hers, something clicked inside me. I mean I practically heard the click. The realization was extremely profound for me. Here are her three tweets that affected me; you need to read them all to understand.

“Loyalty isn’t a fruit of the Spirit.” Amy is right. But in the Christian community, we sure do treat it like one. My cardinal sin wasn’t necessarily speaking out, or questioning this great Christian group I am affiliated with. It was being disloyal. Because speaking out and questioning at all is seen as disloyal. And when people felt their beloved community was threatened by a dissenting voice, their defense mechanisms fired up fast and furious-like.

I broke the rules. I let people see a crack in the full armor, apparently. Which is truly scandalous, because, if people know the truth, it might “hurt our witness,” right? And how will people EVER get saved if they know that Christians and Christian orgs are flawed and make mistakes?? How will people come to know Jesus if they see us DISAGREEING? The horror.

Just like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s George Washington, I don’t think Jesus Christ is a maiden in need of defending. There is nothing I can do to hurt Him. My questions and opinions certainly did Him no harm. And, I would argue, Christians who voice their differences and attempt to work them out in love do a lot more to further the kingdom than those who just gang up and gag up on the dissenters.

For now, I am still wearing my scarlet letter “D” for disloyal, (I hope and pray it won’t always be this way) but at least I finally understand why what I did was so “wrong.” And on the road to healing, I gotta say—that does help a bit.

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Dear Jimmy Carter

Photo by Edgar Colomba from Pexels

Dear Jimmy Carter,

Well, that was rather informal of me. Perhaps I should have started with Dear President Carter instead. But you’ve always seemed pretty informal to me, as American presidents go. Maybe it’s because you’ve always been called “Jimmy,” maybe it’s because you’ve got the most goofy, honest smile in politics, I don’t know. You just look so freaking nice.

Which is part of the reason I feel so bad for writing you off for so long. You were President of the United States when I was born, on Labor Day 1977, but I don’t remember your presidency. My first memory of a president belongs to Ronald Reagan. By the time I was old enough to even kind of get the big deal that presidential elections are, my family was staunchly into Reagan and Bush, and I just thought, since you’d been vanquished by Reagan (whom my grandmother adored), that you must be bad.

Of course I was a kid, and didn’t know any better. But by the time I was a teenager in the 1990’s, I firmly knew that Democrats were terrible and since you’d been one of them, you were probably best forgotten. No one ever explicitly told me this, but it was understood. I mean I HEARD that you were a staunch Southern Baptist (you and I had that in common), and a Sunday school teacher, but I couldn’t understand how you could be a Democrat and a real Christian, so I pretty much thought your faith wasn’t genuine, or that you were super misguided. Like, even if Jimmy means well, he’s waaaaaaay on the wrong team. No wonder he didn’t get re-elected! God was like, ‘nope, sorry Jimmy, you’re confusing people by saying you’re a Christian AND a democrat. You gotsta GO! You can still come to heaven one day but you need to get out of the white house, STAT.”

As a young adult I still just voted Republican because that’s what good Christians did in the late 90s/early 2000s, and once in awhile I’d hear about you building a Habitat for Humanity house or something and I’d be like, “that’s cool, Jimmy’s still sweet but how can he still be a Dem though?” I didn’t really bother to think about it or ask why. It didn’t matter. I knew which side was right and you stubbornly still weren’t on it.

Jimmy, I know we don’t know each other very well, so I’ll tell you something about me: I love history. I love reading stories that I don’t yet know. At some point a few years ago I became interested in the Iran hostage incident that plagued your Presidency. So I read a couple books about it. Watched a movie. Eventually, l even listened to a podcast about it. It was through learning about that story that I learned more about you, and the terrible situation you were in as President during that time.

I cannot imagine the weight that must have been on your shoulders. That whole debacle, the foreign policy stumbles, the lives lost and in the balance—I realize that took a terrible toll on you as a man, not just on your presidency. And I began to see, that your not being re-elected probably didn’t have much to do with God thinking Democrats are bad.

But I have come to see that what happened while you were in office contributed to evangelical Christians dumping you in droves. You weren’t manly enough, weren’t tough enough, didn’t fight abortion hard enough perhaps, and you never did get those hostages released. The Iranians waited until 2.2 seconds after you were out of office, just to spite you.

Mr. President, I am sorry for how all that went down. It must have hurt when your fellow Christians kicked you to the curb. But the proof is in the pudding, now: your character has remained after all these years, fully intact, your marriage a beautiful picture of love, your efforts on behalf of the poor and oppressed world-renowned. Like, Nobel Peace Prize renowned. You have done well, and proved yourself a good and faithful servant of the Christ you claim.

Dear, no, dearest Jimmy Carter, I’m sorry I thought your party affiliation was your identity all those years. I’m sorry I wrote you off and never bothered to take a closer look at your actions and character until you were an old man and I was nearly forty. Now I know you’re a national treasure, our oldest living president, and one whose legacy of love and service will live on and be properly lauded after you take up residence in heaven. I hope you can accept my apology and forgive me.

Gratefully,

Jenny

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